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Wednesday, Aug 20th

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Maryam Mirzakhani first woman to win Fields Medal mathematics prize

Fields Prize in MathFor the first time in history, the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics -- the equivalent, some say, of a Nobel Prize -- has been awarded to a woman. The winner is Maryam Mirzakhani, who was born and raised in Iran.

Mirzakhani studied math at Harvard, earning a PhD in 2004. She currently works at Stanford University as a math professor.

"This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians," Mirzakhani said in a statement released by Stanford.

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IBM's TrueNorth computer chip mimics the human brain

truenorth computer chipIBM today unveiled what it's calling the world's first neurosynaptic computer chip, a processor that mimics the human brain's computing abilities and power efficiency.

Known as TrueNorth, IBM's chip could cram supercomputer-like powers into a microprocessor the size of a postage stamp. Rather than solving problems through brute-force mathematical calculations, like today's processors, it was designed to understand its environment, handle ambiguity, and take action in real time and in context. Plus, it could be among the most power-efficient chips in the history of computing, enabling new types of mobile apps and computing services, IBM principal investigator and senior manager Dharmendra Modha said in an interview.

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Rosetta spacecraft makes historic rendezvous with rubber-duck comet 67P/CG

Rosetta circles cometA European spacecraft has become the first in history to rendezvous with a comet after a seven-minute burn of the probe’s thrusters brought it within 100km (62 miles) of the hurtling lump of dust and ice.

The European Space Agency’s billion-euro Rosetta spacecraft caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko more than 400m km from Earth as it streaked towards the sun at around 55,000km per hour.

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This Filter Could Bring Clean Water to Everyone on Earth

clean water filterFor years, residents of the developed world have enjoyed access to clean, on-demand drinking water. It's a privilege not shared by those in poorer countries, who often struggle to avoid dehydration and waterborne disease. And as continued climate change and population growth strain supplies across the globe, water scarcity will likely affect 50 percent of the world's population by 2030, including many in Europe and North America.

But a team of Swiss engineering students aim to fight these issues with a new, reusable water filter called DrinkPure. It's a small mouthpiece that screws onto the top of any standard PET water bottle. All you need to do is fill the bottle with non-potable water, screw on the filter, and squeeze. Clean, filtered water is instantly available.

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NASA says it's very close to finding alien life

alien lifeAt a panel discussion on the search for alien life, held this week at NASA's headquarters in Washington, the agency's top scientists said they're getting close.

NASA scientists were joined by leading figures in the fields of astronomy, physics and planetary sciences.

"We believe we're very, very close in terms of technology and science to actually finding the other Earth and our chance to find signs of life on another world," Sara Seager, a physicist at MIT and recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, told a packed audience on Monday.

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DNA testing proves the Yeti is actually a prehistoric polar bear, scientist says

Yetil. That means the Abominable Snowman might be an ancient polar bear.

The Yeti is real — but it may be more bear than humanoid, a new study says.  A British scientist used DNA to determine that hair allegedly from the Himalayas' Yeti actually belongs to an ancient bear species experts believed was long extinct.

Oxford University researcher Bryan Sykes and his team published their work this week, NBC News reported.

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Nasa launches satellite to track CO2 in the atmosphere

NASA satelliteA rocket carrying a Nasa satellite lit up the pre-dawn skies Wednesday on a mission to track atmospheric carbon dioxide, the chief culprit behind global warming.

The Delta 2 rocket blasted off from California at 2.56 am and released the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite in low-earth orbit 56 minutes later, bringing relief to mission officials who lost a similar spacecraft five years ago.

The flight was "a perfect ride into space," said Ralph Basilio, the OCO-2 project manager, at a post-launch press conference.

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